We've all had it—an employee who keeps repeating old mistakes despite multiple requests to change workplace behaviour.

It could be handling customers, poor cleaning, late arrival, or managing costs. It could be anything.

You've done the right thing. You have tried sitting down and explaining that their behaviour doesn't align with what you want. You have used calm coaching techniques from those fancy management courses to try and communicate what needs to change. You have even tried hard-ass verbal and written warnings.

Maybe their behaviour changes for a day, a week or not. But every time they, eventually, go back to old behaviours, and IT DRIVES YOU NUTS!!

This is one of the most frustrating parts of management. It's hair-pulling, screaming moments where you often find yourself at wit's end.

So why don't these employees listen and make the shift in behaviour, you have asked? Why!?! For the love of god... WHY??! Well, there are a few common answers...Your fault answers...

1. Poor Communication.

Perhaps, in your mind, you have communicated what you want. But just because it makes sense to you doesn't mean your employee understands, and chances are you didn't articulate the change you want clearly. Everyone communicates, learns and understands differently, and you may need to adjust your communication style. A good tip is to explain it to an independent third person and seek feedback on how you can improve clarity and try again.

2. Skills.

Another possible explanation is the employee hasn't been trained and coached in the skills required to achieve the behavioural changes you want. For example, you may have spoken to them about their customer service but haven't taken the time to show them personally what you want and coach them through the steps to achieve the same. Rather than performance management, focus on training. Help them to understand not only the change you want but why.

3. Ingrained Habit.

The longer you leave lousy behaviour, the harder it is to shift. If the unwanted behaviour has been unquestioned for some time, you and the employee will have to work much harder to correct it. Leave it too long, and it can be almost impossible to rectify.

4. Confidence. 

The problem is often personal. For example, the employee may understand the behavioural changes you want and WANT to make the shift, but personal insecurities hold them back. Solving this takes digging to help uncover the personal insecurities or issues holding back change before giving positive feedback on their journey to the required behaviour.

5. Poor Attitude. 

Sad to say, sometimes employees just don't care enough about you, the business or the job to make changes asked. They know what you want and how to do it but simply don't care enough to make an effort to shift. Like it or lump it, you will have to look to exit these types of employees from the business as quickly and painlessly as possible. Using formal warnings and performance management techniques to get them excited as quickly as possible for the benefit of everyone.

6. Premature Promotion. 

It's great to promote from within. Employees love this type of culture. However, if you cannot get the behaviours from someone who has been promoted, it could be they were not ready, and you're simply asking too much too soon of them. So review their role and, if you can, roll back some of their responsibilities to not demotivate them but to slowly give them time to transition into the role and expectations.

7. Wrong Job.

Sometimes all the coaching and chats to shift behaviour won't help if you have an employee who is simply in the wrong job. For example, an employee who is naturally creative rather than detailed focused may never be able to meet your expectations in improving their paperwork organisation. Either find a better place for them in the business or look to support them to exit the business and find something more suited to their natural skills. So there you have it. We all pull our hair out from time to time, managing people. Changes are their reason for not making the changes you want are one or more of the above. Sometimes you can help and someone you can't. The important thing is to make a decision and act.


Simon Ingleson

CEO/Founder @ RosterElf

Magically Simply Rostering Software

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